Can a Mother's Stress Be Good for Her Child?

Can a Mother's Stress Be Good for Her Child?

Breastfeeding is a good idea—and even more so if you're a stressed-out mom.

In a recent study, researchers worked to determine the effects of a mother's stress on the amount of beneficial substances found in her breast milk. The researchers thought that mothers practicing relaxation techniques would have higher levels of protective substances. However, the results showed that relaxation training had no effect, and that, in fact, mothers who reported the highest levels of stress also had the highest levels of protective substances in their breast milk. One possible theory is that stress increases a nursing mother's production of antibodies because her body knows that stress makes her more vulnerable to infection. At any rate, the stressed-out mothers actually gave their babies extra disease protection.

If you are a mom-to-be considering breastfeeding or a new mom choosing to breastfeed, you don't need to worry that your breast-fed baby's immune system will be negatively affected by your stress levels (at least that's one less thing to be stressed about). It is very important to realize, however, that the relationship between what you put into your body and what your baby takes in through your breast milk is strong. Trying to relieve stress with alcohol or other drugs can be very harmful to your growing child. If you are having trouble coping with stress, talk to your doctor. Also talk to him or her about your nutritional needs as a nursing mom, and discuss all medications you are considering. If you have general questions about breastfeeding, you can also check out the La Leche League's Web site at


Antibodies: a protein made by white blood cells that reacts with a specific foreign protein as part of the immune response.

Suggested Resources

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Gwen Gotsch and Judy Torgus (Plume, 1997)

The Complete Book of Breastfeeding by Marvin S. Eiger and Sally Wendkos Olds (Workman Publishing Company, 1999)

I'm a Mom: Mediations for New Mothers by Ellen Sue Stern (Dell Books, 1993)


American Academy of Pediatrics Web site. "AAP Releases New Breastfeeding Recommendations." Available at:

American Academy of Pediatrics Web site. "A Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding." Available at:

Donovan, D, IBCLC. Parent's Place Web site. "Why Breast is Best." Available at:

La Leche League International Web site. "FAQ on Prevention of Illnesses." Available at: vention.html.

O'Connor ME, Schmidt W, Carroll-Pankhurst C, Olness K. Relaxation training and breast milk secretory IgA. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998; 152:1065-1070.

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Review Date: November 1999
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

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